The church is a church of producers, not performers. In order for the church to function at optimum capacity in its responsibility of extending the kingdom of God, each of us will become a producer, recognizing that we each have a task—an important role to play in the church. When we have been deceived into withdrawal, inactivity or resistance, the church is hindered from becoming what God intended: a demonstration to principalities and powers of the brilliance, wisdom and creativity of God.
We are not producing to please God, to gain standing with Him in any way, or to fulfill some drive deep within of which we are generally completely unaware, that somehow proves that we are worthwhile. That is religious performance. We can only be producers if we know that we already have standing with Him. He alone is our identity. We already are pleasing to Him because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us. We are not “living for,” but we are “living from.”
Paul says that each member is indispensable to the church, even if he thinks himself to be ultimately weak and useless (1 Corinthians 12:22) or even if he is suffering during a difficult time in his life. If one sees himself in that way and withdraws and will not function in the midst of his weakness and suffering, his fellow church members all suffer without his unique contribution. The irony is that it is this very thing, his weakness and suffering, that causes life and ministry to flow spontaneously and unconsciously out of his life as he walks in the light in the church (John 12:24)!
As the church functions, gifted men and women, under the care of the elders, can be brought into the fullness of all that God has placed within them. Their minds are renewed and they become mature men and women, doctrinally stable, deception resistant, and they learn to walk in the light with one another. Young men mature and become elders; the church discovers that some of them are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and they begin to function in those callings—all in the context of the local church. In God’s plan, all we need for church is within the church itself, and all to the glory of Almighty God.
This passage in Ephesians 4, that we looked at in some detail last week, is a beautiful picture, but it seems a long way off for many churches. Some are trapped in the control of the Senior Pastor who sees “the ministry” as what he himself does as the full-time pastor on Sunday morning. Some churches are awash in programs and committees, but there is no “walking in the light” or any “speaking the truth in love” by the leadership, hence none by the congregation. Others have seen the truth of the body ministering to itself, but it is discouraging when they discover that most Christians want “professionals” who will have church for them so they can come and simply be spectators, or not come at all.
When the Bible presents what seems to be a vision that we realistically can’t ever see occurring, we must be as the author of the letter to the Hebrews portrayed Abraham: “By faith…he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9, 10). He never relinquished that vision with thoughts of “This will never happen,” but kept the vision ever before him and believed, by faith, that what God had shown him would be a reality in his experience, though he saw little of that vision fulfilled in his lifetime.
When what God has called us to do as the church seems impossible, may we pray with the Apostle Paul “Now unto him who is able to do abundantly above all we ask or think. To Him be glory in the church” (Ephesians 3:20, 21)!
You may ask, “Where is such a church as you have described these past few weeks? It’s never going to happen. I believe the old adage, ‘Seeing is believing.’ Show me a church like that.”
“Aye, there’s the rub!” If I am believing that statement, I am not “living by faith,“ as Abraham did and as the New Testament exhorts me to do again and again. I am living by the law of first performing something I can see, and then, after seeing, believing I can do it.
Living by faith, on the other hand, is just the opposite—”believing is seeing!” First, I trust my Abba Father, my “Daddy,” as would a four-year-old-child, so I naturally want to do what my Daddy does. When I see what He is doing—naturally, spontaneously, and unconsciously—through me, I can’t wait to do just what my Daddy does! I am a passive spectator just watching my Father at work, just as Jesus did while He Himself did nothing (John 5:19-20, 30; 8:28; 12:49; 15:5; 16:13). What else can a four-year-old do?.
When our Father speaks it, it will be accomplished (Isaiah 46:10, 11)—in His own time, in His own way—a way that often makes no sense to us, but what makes sense to a four-year-old? Our job is to say, “Yes, Daddy,” not “Why, Daddy?” May we pray toward the end that the church will be a biblical church with the Word of God as our standard and with the Holy Spirit free to move in our midst. May we expect God to make us a church that, indeed, has come to the unity of the faith and to a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
“Father, give me a vision of Your church as a living organism with every member making a significant contribution. Give me the grace to pray toward that end, and the wisdom to know how best to position myself in order for you to use me to bring that vision to reality on the earth today. Amen”
Robert, this reminds me that the large churches that I have attended over the years, are spectator/entertainment events. Hired staff performs all of the work of the church! My job was to attend, enjoy, sing, listen, and send my tithe check. Moreover, in these evangelical churches there is zero prayer or any element of sacrifice of ourselves to God, in the worship service. Just singing and listening to the sermon.